Indo-Islamic architecture

Indo-Islamic architecture is the architecture of the Indian subcontinent produced for Islamic patrons and purposes. Despite an earlier Muslim presence in Sindh in modern Pakistan, its main history begins when Muhammad of Ghor made Delhi a Muslim capital in 1193. Both the Delhi Sultans and the Mughal dynasty that succeeded them came from Central Asia via Afghanistan, and were used to a Central Asian style of Islamic architecture that largely derived from Iran.

The types and forms of large buildings required by Muslim elites, with mosques and tombs much the most common, were very different from those previously built in India. The exteriors of both were very often topped by large domes, and made extensive use of arches. Both of these features were hardly used in Hindu temple architecture and other native Indian styles. Both types of building essentially consisted of a single large space under a high dome, and completely avoided the figurative sculpture so important to Hindu temples.

Islamic buildings initially had to adapt the skills of a workforce trained in earlier Indian traditions to their own designs. Unlike most of the Islamic world, where brick tended to predominate, India had highly skilled builders very well used to producing stone masonry of extremely high quality. As well as the main style developed in Delhi and later Mughal centres, a variety of regional styles grew up, especially where there were local Muslim rulers. By the Mughal period, generally agreed to represent the peak of the style, aspects of Islamic style began to influence architecture made for Hindus, with even temples using scalloped arches, and later domes. This was especially the case in palace architecture.

Indo-Islamic architecture has left influences on modern Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi architecture, and was the main influence on the so-called Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture introduced in the last century of the British Raj. Both secular and religious buildings are influenced by Indo-Islamic architecture which exhibit Indian, Islamic, Persian, Central Asian, Arabic and Ottoman Turkish influences.


Historical background
Already in the 7th century, Islam made contact with the Indian subcontinent through trade contacts between Arabia and the Indian west coast, but initially remained limited to the Malabar coast in the extreme southwest. In the early 8th century, an Islamic army under the leadership of the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim first invaded the Sindh (today Pakistan). For centuries the Indus formed the eastern border of the Islamic sphere of influence. Only Mahmud of Ghazni fell in the early 11th century in the Punjab , from where he undertook numerous plunder campaigns against northern India. At the turn of the twelfth to the thirteenth century, finally, the entire Gangese plain came to Bengal under the control of the Persian Ghurid dynasty. This started the real Islamic era in India. The Sultanate of Delhi was built in 1206, and the most important Islamic state on Indian soil until the 16th century. The sultanate extended at times to the central Indian highlands of Dekkan , where from the 14th century independent Islamic states emerged. Other Islamic empires emerged in the 14th and 15th centuries in the peripheral regions of the weakening Delhi Sultanate; the most significant were Bengal in eastern India, Malwa in central India, and Gujarat and Sindh in the west.

In 1526, ruler Babur of modern-day Uzbekistan established the Mughal Empire in northern India, gradually subjugating all the other Muslim subcontinent states, until the eighteenth century as a hegemonic power destined the destinies of India, and then into many de facto independent states. The last Islamic dynasties were defeated in the 19th century by the rising British colonial power. They either went to British India or existed as partially sovereign princely states until the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947.

Encounter of Muslim and Indian-Hindu architecture
For the history of architecture, the beginning of the Islamic era in India meant a radical change: in the North Indian plains, all important Hindu, Buddhist and Jain shrines with figurative representations were destroyed by the Muslim conquerors, so that today, if at all, only ruins of pre-Islamic architecture witness the Gangetic plane. Buddhism, already weakened for centuries, completely disappeared from India, and with it the Buddhist building activity finally succumbed. Hindu and Jainist building traditions were permanently suppressed in the Muslim dominion; However, they survived in southern India, in the highlands of Dekkan and in the bordering on the North Indian plains border regions of the subcontinent.

At the same time, Islam brought new forms of construction, most notably the mosque and the tomb , as well as hitherto unknown or scarcely used construction techniques, including the true arch and vault , from Asia Minor to India, where they were enriched by local craftsmanship. The basic conception of Islamic architecture is contrary to that of sacred art of Indian religions: while the latter reflects cosmological and theological ideas in the form of a complex symbolic language and iconography , Islamic architecture has no transcendental references whatsoever; It is based solely on purposeful and aesthetic considerations. Nevertheless, the fundamentally different beliefs of Hindus and Muslims did not stand in the way of fruitful artistic cooperation or cultural exchange, so that a specific Indian expression of Islamic architecture could emerge, which has produced some of the most important architectural monuments of the subcontinent. Thus, general features of Persian-Islamic architecture – mainly the preferred use of arches to span openings, domes and vaults as space closures and vertical exterior facades with flat decor – have to varying degrees, depending on era and region, of traditional Hindu construction – including falls and Kragbögen , flat and lantern ceilings and plastic wall decoration – superimposed. The profane architecture of the Hindu North and West Indies and the sacral architecture of the Sikh religion, which emerged as a reform movement from Hinduism in the 16th century, also have a distinct Indo-Islamic character.

Building material
As was the case in pre-Islamic times, major buildings were mainly used for dry stone . In the north of India, sandstone dominates, the color varies greatly depending on the region. For the western step, red sandstone is typical, while in other regions, brown and yellow varieties dominate. White marble was used for decorative purposes; The Mughals were also in their heyday in the 17th century, complete construction projects in marble. On the Dekkan gray basalt was the preferred building material. In the alluvial plains of Bengal and the Sindh , in which natural stone hardly exists, dominate brick buildings made of baked clay bricks and mortar . In Gujarat, there are natural stone and brick structures.

Large domes and vaults made of brick or brick were given a high stability by cementitious solid, quick setting lime mortars. Ceiling and roof structures were also sealed with a mortar layer to prevent the ingress of water and plant growth.

Building technology

Bows and Falls
The most important feature of Indo-Islamic architecture, the arch, was initially built in traditional Hindu style as a false arch of stacked, cantilevered stones, but can withstand no major tensile stresses. In order to improve the static properties, Hindu craftsmen in the construction of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque in Delhi in the early 13th century began to warp the joints between the stones in the upper part of the arch perpendicular to the arch line. In this way they finally came to a real arc with radially laid stones. The most popular bow shapes were the pointed arch and the keel arch (donkey back). As a decorative form of the two aforementioned sat later also the Zackenbogen (Vielpassbogen).

Horizontal columnar architrave constructions come from the local building tradition. They are found especially in early mosques, but were also used in strongly hinduisierten buildings of later eras, such as in Mughal palaces of the Akbar period. To increase the spans, the columns were given cantilevered consoles or brackets , which also took on a decorative function.

Vaults and domes
In addition to the arch, the dome is a main characteristic of Indo-Islamic architecture. The prayer halls of mosques were covered by one or more – in the Mughal period usually three – domes. Early Indo-Islamic tombs were simple domed buildings with cube-shaped structure. In later times there is an accumulation of tombs with a large central dome and four smaller domes, which are located at the vertices of an imaginary square enclosing the dome circle. These five-domed buildings have clear parallels to the Hindu panchayatana practice (“five sanctuaries”) of surrounding a temple with four smaller shrines at the corners of the square enclosure wall. Especially in Bengal temples were designed as so-called Pancharatna (“five jewels”), five-towered sanctuaries with a central tower and four smaller repetitions of the main motif at the corners.

Structurally, first Kragkuppeln were built according to ancient Indian custom from ring-layered layers of stone; they are also referred to as “ring layer ceilings”. While this type did not continue in northern India from the second half of the thirteenth century, with the passage to the true vault , it was in use in Gujarat and the Duckhan until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, respectively. In order to equalize and stabilize the cantilever structure of the hemisphere shape, it was plastered inside and outside with extra solid mortar. Following the example of the ceilings of Buddhist Monolithic shrines, many Indo-Islamic buildings received ribbed domes with curved stone beams, which give the dome shape in the form of a framework. The ribs have no static function, but reflect the static structure of wooden dome constructions that preceded the Buddhist Chaitya halls. In the second half of the 16th century Persian master builders introduced the double dome in the Mughal empire, which consists of two cupolas placed one above the other. As a result, the inner spatial effect does not match the outer curvature of the dome, so that the builder had greater freedom in the design of interior and exterior form. On the Dekkan partly double domes were common, the inner dome shell is open to the space of the dome above.

For the transition from the angular basic shape of the space in the base of the dome various techniques were used. Persian builders developed the Trompe , a vaulted niche that was inserted into the upper corners of a square room. On the trompe lay an architrave , which in turn supported the fighters of the dome. In this way it was possible to transfer from the square into an octagon. In India, early trumpets were constructed from two pointed arches, whose soffits were warped so that they converged parallel to the architrave in the crown. Behind the arch thus created remained a free space, which filled a Kragkonstruktion partly. Later, several such pointed arches were staggered into each other, so that the forces could be derived more evenly in the masonry. In the smallest arc only a small round niche was needed to fill the corner completely. Persian and Central Asian architects put two trumpet rows on top of each other to create a sixteen corner as a statically more favorable base for the dome circle. Later, they further developed this principle by inserting the upper rows of trumpets into the gussets of the underlying trumpets, superimposing them into a netlike structure. Since the edges of the trumps result in intersecting ribs, this construction is referred to as ribbed gusset . The ribbed gusset was one of the most frequently used solutions in the later Indo-Islamic architecture for the transition from the wall square to the dome. As an alternative to the trumpet, the Turkish triangle was created independently of each other in Turkey and India, blending the corners of the room with pyramidal instead of cone segments. Indian master builders mediated between square and octagon. As an alternative, the surface of a Turkish triangle was made up of projecting cubes covered with stucco stalactites ( muqarnas ). Even whole stalactite vaults occur.

Other roof and ceiling constructions
The earliest Indo-Islamic buildings, which were mostly built from temple spolia , still partly have ceiling constructions in the style of Hindu temple halls. In addition to flat ceilings, these are mainly lantern ceilings, which were constructed from layers of four stone slabs. The panels are positioned so as to leave a square opening above the center of the room that is turned 45 degrees to the one above or below. Thus, the ceiling opening tapers until it can be closed by a single capstone.

Rectangular and square rooms in Mogul splendor buildings often have mirror ceilings made of stone half-timbering , which may go back to the old Indian wood construction. Mirror ceilings are similar in appearance to the mirror vaults , but do not rest on radially grooved arc segments, but on curved stone beams, which were connected by horizontal beams skeleton like a ring anchor and filled with stone plates. “Mirror” refers to the straight ceiling plane, which is parallel to the fighter line.

Bengali builders took over the convexly arched barrel roof from the traditional Bengal bamboo hut into the local mosque architecture. Both the eaves , which usually survive far, and the ridge are curvilinear. At the time of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb , the Bangla roof was also used for pavilions at the imperial residences. After the demise of the Mughal Empire it found its way into the regional Indo-Islamic secular building styles as the conclusion of bay windows and pavilions.

Jewelry elements
Indo-Islamic architecture is dominated by two different types of ornamental elements: from the Middle East, the extensive, often multicolored wall decoration in the form of tiles, tiles and inlays comes from; of Indian origin are sculptural sculptures. Tiles and tiles dominate especially in the adjacent to Persia northwest of the Indian subcontinent ( Punjab , Sindh ). As colored glazed faience they served after the Persian model for the facade cladding of brick tombs and mosques. In the Mughal period, costly inlays worked in Pietra-dura technique: artists chiselled fine decorative motifs in marble and put small semi-precious stones (including agate , hematite , jade , coral, lapis lazuli , onyx , turquoise ) mosaic in the resulting cracks. While tiles, tiles and inlays were always confined to northern India, plastic trim was common in all regions and eras. They express themselves among other things in hewn facade decoration, richly structured columns, decorated consoles and stone trellises.

In the concrete embodiment, abstract patterns of Near Eastern origin existed alongside Indian nature motifs. Sacral buildings are adorned with inscriptional ribbons with verses from the Koran either painted on tiles or carved in stone. In Northern India, artists based on the Near Eastern model of geometric shapes such as squares, six-, eight- and twelve-cornered to multilayered, often star-shaped patterns that were painted on tiles, notched in stone or broken in stone lattice windows ( Jalis ). Occasionally even geometrically representable Hindu symbols flowed in like the swastika . Instead of the angular abstract patterns, the Dekkan is dominated by soft, curved forms next to writing tapes. In the course of their development, Indo-Islamic architecture increasingly absorbed Hindu-inspired motifs, mainly plant representations. In the earliest times, small, strongly stylized leaves arabesques of Indo-Islamic sacred buildings, which were later supplemented by expansive flower tendrils and garlands. Of particular importance was the stylized lotus blossom used by Hindus and Buddhists alike, which is often to be found in archwires and as a stucco point on domes. Due to the Islamic prohibition of images, representations of animals and humans, which only appeared frequently during the Mughal period, are far rarer. In Lahore ( Punjab , Pakistan), lion and elephant capitals were modeled on a pavilion in the Jahangiri courtyard of Hindu temple pillars, and painters of fighting humans and elephants were posted on the outer wall of the fortress. Many Mogul palace spaces originally adorned figural murals.

The daily prayer ( salat ) is one of the “five pillars” of Islam. At least once a week, on Friday, prayer is to be performed in the community. For this purpose, the mosque ( Arabic Masjid ) serves as the most important form of Islamic architecture, which, in contrast to the Hindu temple neither a cosmological-mythological symbol function takes over nor represents the seat of a deity. However, there are no fixed rules in the Qur’an for the construction of a sacred building, only the figurative representation of God or of people is expressly forbidden. Early mosques were therefore oriented toward the construction of the Prophet Muhammad’s house with an open court ( sahn ) and a covered prayer room ( haram ). In the wall of the prayer room is a niche ( mihrab ), which indicates the direction of prayer ( Qibla ) to Mecca . Next to it is usually the minbar , a pulpit from which the preacher speaks to the assembled faithful. Another feature was the minaret ( minar ), a tower from which the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer. As a borrowing from the Christian church, it first appeared in Syria in the 8th century. In addition to its function as a prayer center, the mosque also fulfills social purposes. Often therefore include a school ( madrasa ), meeting rooms and other facilities to the complex of a mosque.

Architecture of the Delhi Sultanate
The best-preserved example of a mosque from the days of infancy of Islam in South Asia is the ruined mosque at Banbhore in Sindh, Pakistan, from the year 727, from which only the plan can be deduced.

The start of the Delhi Sultanate in 1206 under Qutb al-Din Aibak introduced a large Islamic state to India, using Central Asian styles. The important Qutb Complex in Delhi was begun under Muhammad of Ghor, by 1199, and continued under Qutb al-Din Aibakand and later sultans. The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, now a ruin, was the first structure. Like other early Islamic buildings it re-used elements such as columns from destroyed Hindu and Jain temples, including one on the same site whose platform was reused. The style was Iranian, but the arches were still corbelled in the traditional Indian way.

Beside it is the extremely tall Qutb Minar, a minaret or victory column, whose original four stages reach 73 meters (with a final stage added later). Its closest comparator is the 62-metre all-brick Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, of around 1190, a decade or so before the probable start of the Delhi tower. The surfaces of both are elaborately decorated with inscriptions and geometric patterns; in Delhi the shaft is fluted with “superb stalactite bracketing under the balconies” at the top of each stage. The Tomb of Iltutmish was added by 1236; its dome, the squinches again corbelled, is now missing, and the intricate carving has been described as having an “angular harshness”, from carvers working in an unfamiliar tradition. Other elements were added to the complex over the next two centuries.

Another very early mosque, begun in the 1190s, is the Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra in Ajmer, Rajasthan, built for the same Delhi rulers, again with corbelled arches and domes. Here Hindu temple columns (and possibly some new ones) are piled up in threes to achieve extra height. Both mosques had large detached screens with pointed corbelled arches added in front of them, probably under Iltutmish a couple of decades later. In these the central arch is taller, in imitation of an iwan. At Ajmer the smaller screen arches are tentatively cusped, for the first time in India.

By around 1300 true domes and arches with voussoirs were being built; the ruined Tomb of Balban (d. 1287) in Delhi may be the earliest survival. The Alai Darwaza gatehouse at the Qutb complex, from 1311, still shows a cautious approach to the new technology, with very thick walls and a shallow dome, only visible from a certain distance or height. Bold contrasting colours of masonry, with red sandstone and white marble, introduce what was to become a common feature of Indo-Islamic architecture, substituting for the polychrome tiles used in Persia and Central Asia. The pointed arches come together slightly at their base, giving a mild horseshoe arch effect, and their internal edges are not cusped but lined with conventionalized “spearhead” projections, possibly representing lotus buds. Jali, stone openwork screens, are introduced here; they already had been long used in temples.

Tughlaq architecture
The tomb of Shah Rukn-e-Alam (built 1320 to 1324) in Multan, Pakistan is a large octagonal brick-built mausoleum with polychrome glazed decoration that remains much closer to the styles of Iran and Afghanistan. Timber is also used internally. This was the earliest major monument of the (Tughluq or) Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1413), built during the initial huge expansion of its territory, which could not be maintained. It was built for a Sufi saint rather than sultan, and most of the many Tughlaq tombs are much less exuberant. The tomb of the founder of the dynasty, Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq (d. 1325) is more austere, but impressive; like a Hindu temple, it is topped with a small amalaka and a round finial like a kalasha. Unlike the earlier buildings mentioned above, it completely lacks carved texts, and sits in a compound with high walls and battlements. Both these tombs have external walls sloping slightly inwards, by 25° in the Delhi tomb, like many fortifications including the ruined Tughlaqabad Fort opposite the tomb, intended as the new capital.

The Tughlaqs had a corps of government architects and builders, and in this and other roles employed many Hindus. They left many buildings, and a standardized dynastic style. The third sultan, Firuz Shah (r. 1351-88) is said to have designed buildings himself, and was the longest ruler and greatest builder of the dynasty. His Firoz Shah Palace Complex (started 1354) at Hisar, Haryana is a ruin, but parts are in fair condition. Some buildings from his reign take forms that had been rare or unknown in Islamic buildings. He was buried in the large Hauz Khas Complex in Delhi, with many other buildings from his period and the later Sultanate, including several small domed pavilions supported only by columns.

By this time Islamic architecture in India had adopted some features of earlier Indian architecture, such as the use of a high plinth, and often mouldings around its edges, as well as columns and brackets and hypostyle halls. After the death of Firoz the Tughlaqs declined, and the following Delhi dynasties were weak. Most of the monumental buildings constructed were tombs. The architecture of other regional Muslim states was often more impressive.

Regional Muslim states before the Mughals
Many regional styles were mainly developed during the Mughal period. The most significant pre-Mughal developments are covered here.

Bahmanids of the Deccan
The Bahmani Sultanate in the Deccan broke away from the Tughlaqs in 1347, and ruled from Gulbarga, Karnataka and then Bidar until overrun by the Mughals in 1527. The main mosque (1367) in the large Gulbarga Fort or citadel is unusual in having no courtyard. There are a total of 75 domes, all small and shallow and small except for a large one above the mihrab and four lesser ones at the corners. The large interior has a central hypostyle space, and wide aisles with “transverse” arches springing from unusually low down (illustrated). This distinctive feature is found in other Bahmanid buildings, and probably reflects Iranian influence, which is seen in other features such as a four-iwan plan and glazed tiles, some actually imported from Iran, used elsewhere. The architect of the mosque is said to have been Persian.

Some later Bahminid royal tombs are double, with two units of the usual rectangle-with-dome form combined, one for the ruler and the other for his family, as at the Haft Dombad (“Seven Domes”) group of royal tombs outside Gulbarga. The Mahmud Gawan Madrasa (begun 1460s) is a large ruined madrasa “of wholly Iranian design” in Bidar founded by a chief minister, with parts decorated in glazed tiles imported by sea from Iran. Outside the city the Ashtur tombs are a group of eight large domed royal tombs. These have domes which are slightly pulled in at the base, looking forward to the onion domes of Mughal architecture.

The Bengal Sultanate (1352–1576) normally used brick, as pre-Islamic buildings had done. Stone had to be imported to most of Bengal, whereas clay for bricks is plentiful. But stone was used for columns and prominent details, often re-used from Hindu or Buddhist temples. The Eklakhi Mausoleum at Pandua, Malda or Adina, is often taken to be the earliest surviving Islamic building in Bengal, although there is a small mosque at Molla Simla, Hooghly district, that is probably from 1375, earlier than the mausoleum. The Eklakhi Mausoleum is large and has several features that were to become common in the Bengal style, including a slightly curved cornice, large round decorative buttresses and decoration in carved terracotta brick. These features are also seen in the Choto Sona Mosque (around 1500), which is in stone, unusually for Bengal, but shares the style and mixes domes and a curving “paddy” roof based on village house roofs made of vegetable thatch. Such roofs feature even more strongly in later Bengal Hindu temple architecture, with types such as the do-chala, jor-bangla, and char-chala.

Other buildings in the style are the Nine Dome Mosque and the Sixty Dome Mosque (completed 1459) and several other buildings in the Mosque City of Bagerhat, an abandoned city in Bangladesh that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These show other distinctive features, such as a multiplicity of doors and mihrabs; the Sixty Dome Mosque has 26 doors (11 at the front, 7 on each side, and one in the rear). These increased the light and ventilation.

The ruined Adina Mosque (1374–75) is very large, which is unusual in Bengal, with a barrel vaulted central hall flanked by hypostyle areas. The heavy rainfall in Bengal necessitated large roofed spaces, and the nine-domed mosque, which allowed a large area to be covered, was more popular there than anywhere else.

Mughal Architecture
The Mughal Empire, an Islamic empire that lasted in India from 1526 to 1764 left a mark on Indian architecture that was a mix of Islamic, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Central Asian and native Indian architecture. A major aspect of Mughal architecture is the symmetrical nature of buildings and courtyards. Akbar, who ruled in the 16th century, made major contributions to Mughal architecture. He systematically designed forts and towns in similar symmetrical styles that blended Indian styles with outside influences. The gate of a fort Akbar designed at Agra exhibits the Assyrian gryphon, Indian elephants, and birds.

During the Mughal era design elements of Islamic-Persian architecture were fused with and often produced playful forms of the Hindustani art. Lahore, occasional residence of Mughal rulers, exhibits a multiplicity of important buildings from the empire, among them the Badshahi mosque (built 1673-1674), the fortress of Lahore (16th and 17th centuries) with the famous Alamgiri Gate, the colourful, the Wazir Khan Mosque, (1634-1635) as well as numerous other mosques and mausoleums. Also the Shahjahan Mosque of Thatta in Sindh originates from the epoch of the Mughals. However, it exhibits partially different stylistic characteristics. Singularly, the innumerable Chaukhandi tombs are of eastern influence. Although constructed between 16th and 18th centuries, they do not possess any similarity to Mughal architecture. The stonemason works show rather typical Sindhi workmanship, probably from before Islamic times. The building activity of the Mughals came close to succumbing by the late 18th century. Afterwards hardly any special native architectural projects were undertaken.

By this time versions of Mughal style had been widely adopted by the rulers of the princely states and other wealthy people of all religions for their palaces and, where appropriate, tombs. Hindu patrons often mixed aspects of Hindu temple architecture and traditional Hindu palace architecture with Mughal elements and, later, Eurpean ones.

Major examples of Mughal architecture include:

Tombs, such as Taj Mahal, Akbar’s Tomb and Humayun’s Tomb
Forts, such as Red Fort, Lahore Fort, Agra Fort and Lalbagh Fort
Mosques, such as Jama Masjid and Badshahi Masjid

Urban planning and urban architecture
While Hindu urban developers ideally based their foundations on a strict grid-orientated grid plan, such as in Jaipur ( Rajasthan , north-west India), Islamic city foundations usually have only a few special principles of order. In most cases, Muslim city planners limited themselves to the assignment of buildings to functional units; they left the course of the roads to chance. Nonetheless, many Indo-Islamic planned cities share at least one central axbox that divides the walled city into four parts – an allusion to the Islamic concept of the four-part paradise garden. In contrast to its Hindu counterpart, however, the axbox is not necessarily in east-west or north-south direction, but may be shifted towards Mecca , as in Bidar ( Karnataka , south-west India) and Hyderabad ( Telangana , south-east India) , At the intersection of the two major road axes is typically a striking structure that fulfills practical purposes, such as a watchtower or central mosque, but also has a symbolic center point function. An example of such a center construction is the Charminar, built in the late 16th centuryin Hyderabad, a four-towered gatehouse that housed a mosque on the upper floor and became the landmark of the city. Its four archways point in the four directions of the crossroads.

Among the urban residential buildings of Indo-Islamic construction, the Havelis of north-western India stand out, houses of wealthy merchants, nobles and officials who imitate the regional palace style. Large havelis have three or four floors connected by narrow spiral staircases and a roof terrace. Standing on a pedestal, the Havelis are accessible from the street via steps. A public reception room in the front area is followed by the private living rooms, which open onto one or more shady courtyards in verandas and covered balconies ( jarokas ). The street facades also have jarokas and ornamental windowsJali bars that serve as privacy and wind breakers. Inside, the Havelis are often elaborately painted. Especially many havelis have survived in Rajasthan. Depending on the local decor style and building materials, mostly sandstone, they formuniform streetsin historic cities like Jaisalmer , Jaipur and Jodhpur as well as in the cities of Shekhawati . The smaller, simpler havelis of the less affluent population are often whitewashed.

Source From Wikipedia